Complementary treatment options

I am excited to start the journey of compiling this column for all of you. The aim is empower women with reliable information about complementary health interventions related to breast cancer, whether for prevention, support or treatment. Here I am referring to any intervention, even lifestyle choices that can give us a better chance to beat breast cancer.

Most women that have been diagnosed with breast cancer, or who have a loved one that has been diagnosed with breast cancer have many questions, often related to complementary treatment options.

We are living in the information age and a simple search on the Internet will produce a list of thousands of articles attempting to answer your questions. However, it is safer to access information that is based on research findings and/or professional experience that has been tried and tested over time.

Oncologists and surgeons are exceptionally knowledgeable in their areas of expertise, but often don’t have the time to keep up-to-date with the available scientific information related to complementary interventions. Because there is so much misinformation available to patients some oncologists and surgeons may be inclined to discourage any and all complementary advice, or interventions in an attempt to ensure that nothing interferes with their treatment and to protect their patients from harm.

However, there are complementary interventions that are proven safe and effective in breast cancer, whether to improve the efficacy of conventional treatments, to mitigate their side effects, to extend and improve the quality of life of patients for whom conventional treatments are not an option or as part of a ‘breast cancer prevention’ lifestyle. This information is relevant, not only to those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, but for all women. In addition, I hope that this column will also serve to allay some of the concerns and mistrust that oncologists and surgeons have when it comes to complementary treatment in general, as well as to help create better collaboration and dialogue for the benefit of the patient.

Central to the discussions in this column will be some in depth explorations into the latest breaking research on epigenetics and how it relates breast cancer. In a nutshell epigenetics is the study of how external factors change the way our genes work without changing our genetic makeup. Although our genetic makeup isn’t changing, changing how our genes work can have a devastating effect on our health; cancer is one example of this.

However, the changes triggered by epigentic factors don’t always have to be negative. In fact the study of epigenetics is revealing how diet, environmental and lifestyle choices interact with our genes to trigger and sustain health or disease. Scientists are even studying how various emotions switch the genes related to health and disease, on or off. Most importantly, epigenetic research findings directly related to breast cancer are mounting. This means that we can all be empowered with information to make better choices to beat breast cancer through everyday decisions.

Something that is related to the topic of epigenetics is chronic diseases. We’ll explore the growing research on how certain chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and hypothyroidism increase your risk for breast cancer. This is important for all of us to know. If you are suffering from such a chronic disease you can reduce your breast cancer risk by getting it under control.

The final future topic I’d like to highlight is the story of estrogen. Anyone that has been diagnosed with breast cancer knows that it plays an important role in the pathogenesis. But we need a deeper understanding of estrogen so that we can move beyond simply blocking it with drugs.

We need to understand how environmental factors and everyday choices can turn estrogen into our friend or foe. So, join me on this journey of discovering how you can participate in your healing journey with each edition. As you learn more you will be able to empower other women with your knowledge.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Written by Dr Cornelia Botha

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